International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the organics recycling industry. It is celebrated in many countries throughout the world annually during the first full week of May. Started in Canada over twenty-five years ago, ICAW has continued to grow as more people, businesses, municipalities, schools and organizations are recognizing the importance of organics recycling and compost use.
This year, the annual week-long event will be held on May 2nd – 8th. During the week, thousands of volunteers around the world will hold educational activities working together to get the word out about the many benefits of recycling organics and the importance of returning organic matter – compost – back to our soils.
One of the key areas of focus this year is looking at the circular process moving from turning recycled organic materials into compost which creates healthy soils leading to more nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, with that waste going back to being composted and the process starting again. Compost adds carbon back into the soil, storing carbon in soils, promoting water conservation, and retarding erosion of soils and closes the loop by avoiding the loss of valuable organic resources. From backyard composting, community composting, on-farm composting, large-scale organics recycling, this amazing resource provides an ecologically responsible option for managing our organic residuals.
Traditionally throughout the week of ICAW, events and programs are held to encourage and celebrate the recycling of organics. This year, it is felt that activities will probably be a hybrid of activities, meaning a mix of promoting ICAW through social media, webinars, Zoom meetings, etc. (which was done in 2020 due to Covid-19), as well as socially-distanced outside events, when appropriate. Either online or in-person, the same message holds true – it is up to each of us to both recognize the need and help care and maintain our soil, for now and into the future. Recycling organics and returning this valuable resource back to our soil is fundamental.
Here are some key facts regarding organics recycling and compost use highlighting why ICAW is such an important awareness-building program each year:
– The use of landfill space and incineration can be reduced by at least one-third when organics are recycled. Focused attention on recycling organic residuals is key to achieving high-waste diversion rates.
– Methane, a greenhouse twenty-five times as powerful as carbon dioxide, can be significantly reduced through the recycling of organics instead of their being landfilled.
– Soil health and productivity is dependent on organic matter – the essence of compost — to provide the sustenance for the biological diversity in the soil. Plants depend on this to convert materials into plant-available nutrients and to keep the soil well-aerated. Additional benefits include the reduced need for pesticide usage to ward off soil-borne and other plant diseases.
– Compost offers a significant answer to climate change mitigation. Compost’s return to the soil serves as a “carbon bank,” helping to store carbon thereby removing it from the atmosphere.
– Compost is a huge benefit for both water conservation and quality. When used in water quality projects, compost bind pollutants to the organics material and prevents them from entering our lakes, wetlands, streams and rivers. Soil erosion is mitigated, and water-holding capacity improved through compost’s enhancement of soil structure, binding soil particles together. Some reports have shown that for every 1% of organic matter content, the soil can hold around 20,000 gallons of plant-available water.
International Compost Awareness Week International Partners
Working together to promote ICAW, these international partners are coming together throughout the world to broaden the understanding of compost use and promote awareness of the recycling of organic residuals. Contacts are below for each country participating in ICAW.